Published: Jan. 21, 2014

Gaertner.jpgThe Association for Institutional Research (AIR) recently honored Dr. Matthew Gaertner, a 2011 doctoral graduate of the Research and Evaluation Methodology program, and co-authors Jeongeun Kim, Stephen DesJardins, and Katie McClarty with the 2013 Charles F. Elton Best Paper Award. The article, "Preparing Students for College and Careers: The Causal Role of Algebra II," will be published in a Special Forum Issue of Research in Higher Education together with other designated best papers this spring.

The Charles F. Elton Best Paper Award celebrates the papers presented at the AIR Forum that most clearly exemplify the standards of excellence established by the award’s namesake and make significant contributions to the field of institutional research and decision-making in higher education.

Abstract In educational research and policy circles, college and career readiness is
generating great interest. States are adopting various policy initiatives, such as rigorous
curricular requirements, to increase students’ preparedness for life after high school.
Implicit in many of these initiatives is the idea that college readiness and career readiness
are essentially the same thing. This assumption has persisted, largely untested. Our paper
explores this assumption in greater depth. Using two national datasets and an instrumental
variables approach to mitigate selection bias, we evaluated the effects of completing
Algebra II in high school on subsequent college and career outcomes (i.e., persistence and
graduation as well as wages and career advancement). Results suggest Algebra II matters
more for college outcomes than career outcomes and more for students completing Algebra
II in the early 1990s than in the mid-2000s. Study limitations are discussed along with
directions for future research, such as evaluating the opportunity cost associated with
taking Algebra II for students seeking careers upon high school completion.


View the award announcement or access the full paper.